Here’s some things to look out for if you, like me, decide to go online and order some surgical masks to have on hand in case the avian flu mutates into a human strain and our streets start looking like this photo.
As ABC News reported recently, “Bird flu concerns make masks hot commodity.” This story says that to be effective, masks should have an “N95” rating: “This means that the respirators filter out at least 95 percent of airborne particles during testing using a ‘most-penetrating’ sized particle of 0.3 microns.”
That also was the advice on an OSHA web page that offers guidance for protecting workers against avian flu. Unfortunately, I read this information only after zipping onto Drugstore.com and buying (or rather, back-ordering) a Flents high filtration mask that looked good but wasn’t “N95” certified. I’ve since cancelled the order.
Since there was a 1-2 week wait to get these masks, I have to assume that quite a few other people are mistakenly believing that a mask of that sort will offer good protection against viruses. It won’t.
When I searched for more information about the Flents mask, I found something interesting. One of the results of a Google search turned up a mention that the Flents mask wasn’t N95-certified or effective against viruses. Yet when I clicked on that link, I couldn’t find the wording in the Google search results.
So I retrieved Google’s cache of that page, which shows an interesting difference between that old version and the current page. Gone now is a warning at the top of the listing for this item that said: “(Does Not Protect against Viruses such as SARS) * * * Not Rated as an N95 respirator * * *”
My suspicion is that as the demand for surgical masks has gone up, some suppliers are taking advantage of poorly informed people and are selling them ineffective products under mildly (as in this case) or more blatantly false premises. So, buyer beware.
I spent some time on the Oregon Digital web site, buynanomask.com. Oregon Digital is headquartered in Oregon City. Perhaps their mask does everything claimed, but I doubt it.
Supposedly it “kills Bird Flu, SARS, and flu on contact.” Doubtful, really doubtful. I was still doubtful even after taking a glance at a PDF file that reportedly provides evidence of how “one nanoparticle on the filter killed 99.999% of the pathogens.” Huh? Anyway, the “research” involved bacteria and fungi, not viruses.
A FAQ about why the mask isn’t NIOSH certified also struck me as ranking high on the B.S. scale. Oregon Digital claims that they intend to submit the mask for certification, but not quite yet.
Well, since I’m concerned about protecting myself from a potentially deadly flu strain, I decided that I didn’t want to be a test case for an unproven mask. So I ended up buying some tried and true N95 surgical masks from an established safety company.
I hope I never have to use them.